This Tuesday, PREMIUM TIMES is bringing you live updates as hearing resumes in the landmark case of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal headquarters in Abuja.
Today’s proceeding was expected to commence at 10:00 a.m., but the tribunal chairman has not arrived.
Mr. Saraki arrived at exactly 10:00 a.m with his aides and supporters, who include his colleagues from the National Assembly. .The courtroom is already filled with mostly lawyers for both prosecution and defence teams, as well as reporters.
What you need to know:
The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) is a pioneer anti-corruption agency set up by the Federal Government of Nigeria. It has the primary responsibility of checking corrupt practices in the Nigerian Public service. (Source: ccb.gov.ng)
The CCB was established in order to check fraud in public offices. Some individuals go into public office with intention to steal. They falsely declare assets or declare some assets in anticipation of their loot. The fact that declaration of assets is a process that is shrouded in secrecy makes it easy for politicians and civil servants to falsely declare their possessions.
The tribunal is the judicial panel of CCB that prosecutes cases of false and anticipatory assets declaration.
On Friday, September 11, 2015, the tribunal slammed a 13-count charge of alleged false and anticipatory assets declaration on Mr. Saraki. He initially ignored the charges. He argued that the charges were politically-motivated and the process by which they were filed were also flawed
The Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act clearly state that any prosecution must be authorized by the Attorney General of the Federation,” Mr. Saraki said on September 16, 2015. “Given that the nation last had an Attorney General in May 2015, it is clear that the CCB is acting under outside political influence.”
Don’t forget that Mr. Saraki emerged President of the Senate under controversial circumstances, a result that has continued to define his tenure.
Mr. Saraki also approached the federal high courts to have his trial quashed.
But the tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar, remained steadfast, undistracted. After Mr. Saraki failed to appear twice before the tribunal, Mr. Umar issued a warrant of arrest against him. Finally on September 22, 2015, Mr. Saraki showed up at the tribunal with an estimated 80 senators.
After a brief argument, he was docked. The picture went viral, well….
The cases at the high courts dragged to the Supreme Court which ruled in February that Mr. Saraki must stand trial. Succumbing to fate, Mr. Saraki said he was “happy that the trial has commenced.”
The status of the trial:
Two weeks ago, while prosecutors were still presenting exhibits against Mr. Saraki, the Senate President’s legal team introduced an application to disqualify the tribunal chairman, Mr. Umar.
Ajibola Oluyede, one of Mr. Saraki’s counsels, said Mr. Umar lacked the moral standing to hear the case due to conflict of interest. Mr. Oluyede said Mr. Umar is currently being prosecuted by the EFCC for seeking a ₦10 million bribe from an accused, saying the chairman cannot be handling a case in which EFCC has interest when the agency has a case against him.
“The EFCC is dangling a sword of Damocles on your lordship’s head,” Mr. Oluyede said.
The next day, Mr. Umar struck out the application, saying he’d already been cleared of any wrongdoing by the anti-graft body.
The prosecution team, led by Rotimi Jacobs, is still presenting its case against Mr. Saraki. The tribunal has heard several allegations of financial misconduct on the part of Mr. Saraki, including how the top lawmaker allegedly falsely declared his assets and laundered money through aides.
Cross examination of prosecuting witnesses continue today.
Keep refreshing your page for instant updates as the case proceeds in what is clearly one of the biggest trials since the treasonable felony proceeding against late Obafemi Awolowo in 1962.
Update 1: The tribunal chairman has now arrived. The prosecution and defence counsels have all been introduced. Cross-examination has commenced.
Update 2: Prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, says whoever the defence team chooses to cross-examine the prosecution witness must conclude the process, saying exchange of lawyers will confuse both the witness and the court.
Update 3: Paul Ilokoro, a defence counsel, argues that there is no law that backs Mr. Jacobs’ request. He said the prosecution team tendered a huge amount of exhibits against his counsel, Mr. Saraki.
“We will take out time to analyse these documents,” he said. “We will not be rushed. We will not be stampeded.”
Mr. Usoro says the law stipulates that witnesses should be cross examined by lawyers, not that it must be the lead counsel.
Mr. Usoro also said Mr. Jacobs knows the law but deliberately tried to be mischievous.
Mr. Jacobs replied: “I know the law, I know the law, but…”
At 11: 06, the other member of the bench, William Atedze, drew Mr. Jacob’s attention to the fact that Section 349 (7) of Administration of Criminal Justice Act did not say that the representative of a defence counsel doing the cross-examination must be the lead counsel.
The two teams are still sparring over how many lawyers should cross examine a witness.
Mr. Usoro says the question is more about if the defendant has the right to choose who should represent and cross-examine witnesses on his behalf.
The two lawyers have rested their arguments and Mr. Umar is now trying to decide if Mr. Usoro should be allowed to take over the cross examination of prosecution witness, Michael Wetkas, or if Paul Ilokoro, who was earlier called upon to do so, should be the one to continue.
Ruling expected shortly.